Safety and hazards in CCS projects


Courtesy of Energy Institute (EI)

Carbon capture and storage is now on the technological tipping point – it has reached critical mass with one large-scale, fully integrated power project now almost operational at the SaskPower Boundary Dam project in Canada, using enhanced oil recovery.

In the UK, following the announcements of progress at two projects, Peterhead and White Rose, the government’s competition process must deliver this time. If not, it is difficult to see where the future corporate enthusiasm for CCS will come from in Europe. Another failed project like Longannet, and companies may permanently divert resources, both expertise and funding, away from CCS to other more lucrative areas.

Despite an insecure policy and financial environment new CCS entrant companies have appeared but, good news from Drax and Peterhead notwithstanding, those in the industry know of companies that have taken a decision to step away from the CCS space for the time being. In the past seven years the industry has shown a great deal of patience, but has already lost some expertise.

The Energy Institute is one of a few professional institutions able to maintain specialised CCS knowledge between government competitions. Initial work was focused on the safe build and operation of a capture plant; this was followed by the development of an analysis of onshore pipeline hazards and completed by looking at offshore hazards. Publications from this work are free to download from the EI publishing website:

The CCS technical work at the EI is being led by Progressive Energy, whose Engineering Director Andy Brown currently chairs the committee. Progressive Energy is the project developer for the Teesside Low Carbon CCS project – currently one of the reserve projects in the government competition. The committee is also supported by AMEC, Air Products, GCCSI, and E.ON, as well as the Health & Safety Laboratory and the CCS Association.

During the recent competition, the committee managed to identify a small gap; to provide analysis of the best methods to communicate process issues in a complex CCS operation and prevent any potential hazard situations through thoughtful plant management and correct messaging. We are now pleased to announce that work is now well underway on the analysis of the required incident reaction times, using a computer model developed by the Energy Technologies Institute and an industry consortium led by PSE. The EI project has been designed to act as a piece of general guidance on how a developer might start to think about the challenges posed by a complex CCS project.

The new EI work is, as ever, subject to the constraints of modelling, and it will be imperative that each actual CCS project has its own specific approach.

The current news on Peterhead and White Rose remains heartening. There are also some positive expressions of intent emanating from the projects that did not make it to the UK government’s final two, although it’s difficult to see how they will progress ahead of the two leading projects. However, it is worth remembering that they may be able to build on improved knowledge by waiting.

It is also notable that last December saw the announcement of a third project in Teesside, not part of the government competition, which has funding set aside to investigate the possibility of an industrial CCS cluster in the area. It is important to understand that these projects may represent the last chance for the UK to make something happen on the CCS front.

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